Tag Archives: Angel

Long Way Home

In retrospect, I’m glad I didn’t figure out how deeply flawed the final volume of that Buffy/Angel crossover series was until the last 50 pages or so. Because, I have this habit of not letting things go, however terrible, until I’m through with them, and it would have sucked to bitch to myself constantly for 300 pages instead of only 50. Seriously. There was this bowl of queso at lunch yesterday that tasted truly awful, but I kept retasting it because part of it reminded me of some other taste, and I couldn’t quite put my, er, tongue on it. Meanwhile, my co-diner was actually throwing up due to the chemical poisoning from whatever plastic thing had melted into the queso mix. I’d like to think that if she’d been throwing up before I kept re-tasting, that would have stopped me. I really, really would love to think that.

Sadly, that story was more metaphor than digression. There are good Buffy books out there, as much as any randomly farmed out novelisation franchise can have quality. This trilogy, as I’ve said basically from start to finish, does not reach that low watermark. The banter and adventure is, y’know, fine. The storyline, though, got just about as bad as it could have. The thing I figured out 50 pages from the end is that they had no possible way to satisfactorily conclude the story. I was wrong in that, and I admit it; they wrapped up without taking any cheap shortcuts as I expected. No, I spotted the real problem after the fact, which was that it should have been those 50 pages all along, and that the 250 previous pages were nothing but an artificially induced delay to make it long enough to be a trilogy, since that’s what the authors had promised to their bookfarm foreman.

My point being, Long Way Home is easily the worst-plotted book of a pretty bad trilogy, in which the first volume failed to deliver on even a freaking crossover. There’s a Batman book I read in my middle youth, in which someone decided to write a polemic decrying the child sex trade (a topic which until that moment had been mostly the subject of widespread praise, I’m sure) and thought that it might be fun to have Batman involved. This trilogy is like that, except about urban gang warfare or possibly the Soviet bloc. Buffy and Angel are about as poorly shoehorned into the plot here as Batman was in The Ultimate Evil. Credit where it’s due, though: regardless of how bad a fit Batman was in that story, at least the story itself made a lick of sense. This one, not so much.

Door to Alternity

If you’re in any way interesting, you don’t remember that I read the first book of a Buffy/Angel crossover trilogy in December (at least, not before I reminded you just now), because you’ve had other, better things on your mind. Like, say, tax season, or how the Iraqi election contributes to the stability of that region.

A few days ago, I finished reading the equally engrossing second book of the Unseen trilogy, Door to Alternity. (As before, there are inevitable spoilers through the first several seasons of Buffy, so stop now if you want to avoid them.) Much as The Burning had lots of fire, this book has lots of doors to alternities. (An alternity, sensibly, is an alternate reality but without so many syllables.) The third of the trilogy combines the thrilling danger of randomly appearing monsters swarming over Sunnydale, teens (disaffected and affected alike) disappearing into glowing portals all over LA, and a turf war between Mexican street gangs and the Russian Mafiya. (As you can see, only a couple of key changes have occurred in the greater Southern California area in the ten years since the events chronicled in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.) Against this thrillingly dangerous backdrop, the authors have included the kinds of Buffy tropes you’d expect of a Scooby gang frozen in emotional time for the summer: Xander and Anya sure do talk about and have lots of sex, Buffy, Riley, and Angel sure do spend a lot of angsty thought over their non-existent triangle, and Spike sure does want that chip out of his head.

It was approximately three months between when I read the first book and the second. By comparison, it was approximately two months between when the two books were released. I can’t say I know they were written two months apart as a result of that publication spacing, but I also can’t say I’d be surprised to learn that it was so.

The Burning

Over the past week, I’ve been putting in some low-rent reading time with the first book of Unseen, a Buffy/Angel crossover trilogy set during the summer between the fourth and fifth seasons of Buffy (and therefore the first and second seasons of Angel). As such, I’ll be basically unable to talk about the book without spoilers up to those points. If you care, you have been warned.

The Burning, like the trilogy itself, delivers on the title. There’s a really big oil field fire. And maybe another fire as well, if I remember right, but not in an oil field. And basically every character, at some point, muses about how they are unseen, literally, metaphorically, or both. The theme is floating right there on the surface, like oil on poisoned well water.

What it doesn’t deliver on is a crossover. There are three distinct plots, more than one subplot, and nothing tying any of them together. Cordelia wants to save a group of Lost Girls, Angel wants to save a kid and his falsely accused murderer father after one of the trademark PTB visions, Willow wants to save a college pal’s brother from his bad choices, Spike wants his vampire girlfriend du jour to introduce him to her (still-living) thesis advisor, who might have an angle on removing the chip from his head, and Buffy wants to save lots of people from a mysterious shadow monster that is wandering Sunnydale rending people into bits. As of the end of the first book, none of these storylines appear to be in any way related to any of the others.

As badly written as that part of the book is, I might be able to forgive it as belonging to later books in the trilogy, if not for the fact that the characters also fail to cross over in any meaningful sense. We’re treated to Angel and Buffy each privately angsting about the other’s lack of consideration after a short phone call near the end, plus a “surprise” meeting just as the curtain falls, complete with Riley posturing manfully about what a dick his girlfriend’s ex- can be.

The sad part is, without the terrible advertising done by the book cover, the actual plotlines themselves are easily interesting enough to hold the attention. (I mean, I knew what I was getting into in that regard from the start, and as low-rent goes, it’s fine. Even though I spent a paragraph above mocking the [lack of] depth.) But the dissonance is too much to overcome, and so I complain. I’ll still read the other two books eventually and hope that the next one delivers what this failed to do.